Former Turkish minister defends himself against corruption allegations
Deniz Zeyrek ANKARA
The parliamentary commission had questioned a sudden increase in Bayraktar’s wealth on the back of allegations that he accepted bribes.Former Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar has defended himself against the graft probe allegations that led to his resignation from the ministry post, while also saying the new allegations against him in the inquiry commission were baseless.
After testifying at the parliamentary commission into corruption that was established against four former ministers, Bayraktar told Hürriyet the claims building upon a voice recording allegedly have nothing to do with the main investigation, which was asked about in the inquiry commission, were baseless.
“They made us listen to a voice recording in the [commission] meeting, which had nothing to do with the topic. I told them this was irrelevant to the investigation, but could answer if they wished. [The commission] head Hakkı Köylü said ‘Give information about the parts about you.’ There is nothing in the file. It is alleged that a criminal organization was established in Istanbul, that I knew about that organization and I committed crimes of malpractice and engaging in influence peddling. The court said there was ‘no such organization’ even before the debated nonsuit decision. There is nothing to blame on me but they are trying to leave it on me, which was not in the file,” said Bayraktar.
Bayraktar said his company had not grown 3.3 percent in three years like it was alleged and the figure that was mentioned, around 58.2 million Turkish Liras of company worth in 2013, was the assets added up all together but did not contain company’s the debits and debts.
The parliamentary commission had questioned a sudden increase in Bayraktar’s wealth on the back of allegations that he accepted bribes. A company owned by Bayraktar’s family increased its wealth from 17.5 million liras in 2010 to 58.2 million liras in 2013.
Answering whether it was ethical to be a shareholder of a company while he was a parliamentarian, Bayraktar said deputies and ministers owning shares was ethically and legally unproblematic.
“There are deputies in Parliament that have huge amounts of shares in big companies. It is the same way in other countries too,” Bayraktar said.
Former ministers Zafer Çağlayan, Egemen Bağış, Muammer Güler and Bayraktar resigned from Cabinet after a huge graft operation highlighted their relations with Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who had allegedly paid them a number of bribes over the last few years. Along with Zarrab, former Halkbank chief executive Süleyman Aslan was among the suspects of the corruption probe.
The Turkish Parliament decided to establish an investigation commission to probe the four former ministers on May 5 after deliberations between the political parties in the legislature.